Category Archives: women filmmakers

Newly digitized Anne Charlotte Robertson titles

Here is an update on the Anne Robertson films that have been digitized and are available for loan.  We are working on making more available soon!

Five Year Diary reel 26 making Magazine Mouth FYD47thrift_two_frame FYD83mother_and_sister

These are generally available as DCP or files.  Some are available on DigiBeta for you oldschoolers.  As always, please contact the HFA’s Loan Officer for more information.

shorts:
Subways (1976) – 13 min.
Going to Work (1981) – 7 min.
Locomotion (1981) – 7 min.
Magazine Mouth (1983) – 7 min.
Depression Focus Please (1984) – 4 min.
Talking to Myself (1985) – 3 min.
Kafka Kamera (1985) – 3 min.
Apologies (1986/1990) – 17 min.
My Cat, My Garden, 9/11 (2001) – 6 min.

Five Year Diary newly digitized reels: Reel 3, Reel 26, Reel 40, Reel 47, Reel 83

FIVE YEAR DIARY (approx. 27 min per reel):
The Five Year Diary explores many aspects of soundtrack. Many reels have synch sound – mag stripe Super 8. Sometimes the soundtrack is spotty, other times it continues for the entire reel. Audio cassettes were used as well, either on their own or in conjunction with SOF (sound on film). Some tapes were used multiple times for many reels. A narration was usually performed live, and several reels have Anne’s audio narration, which she recorded in the 1990s for posterity and so her narrated film could travel without her.

Reel 1: The Beginning – Thanksgiving, November 3 – December 13, 1981
Vegetarianism, bingeing, Thanksgiving with parents. (ACR)
In the first reel of the Five Year Diary, we watch Anne grow up, consider food and fat, and don her yellow leotard in front of the camera for the first time. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 2: Definitions of Fat and Thin, December 13 – 22, 1981
Anne consults the dictionary in this one – what is “fat?” what is “thin?” Inanimate objects are animated, and Anne experiences problems with her camera. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 3: Christmas and New Year ’82, December 20-January 9, 1982
The first of many year-end holiday reels. Cooking, cleaning, pixilation. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 9: April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, March 17 – March 27, 1982
Pixilation. Sleeping, cooking, resolving to quit smoking. (LC)
Audio cassette

Reel 22: A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, August 23 – September 1, 1982
Anne finds a lover, loses him, mourns him, and has a nervous breakdown. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 23: A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, September 1 – December 13, 1982
Anne’s nervous breakdown continues until she is hospitalized. One track was recorded during the mania; in the second track, Anne reflects, years later, on this troubled time. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 26: First Semester Grad School, February 28 – May 20, 1983
Two years into the Diary, Anne began graduate school at Massachusetts College of Art. Reel 26 was shot silently; the soundtrack is an audio recording she made during a graduate review. She discusses her work with Super 8 auteur and professor Saul Levine and a second faculty member. Ideas brought up in the discussion were later implemented in Reel 22 and 23 and in the presentation of the work in general. (LC)
audio cassette

Reel 31: Niagara Falls, August 19 – 28, 1983
Anne takes a road trip to Niagara Falls trip with her family in this exceptionally beautiful Diary reel. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 40: Visiting Grandmother, My Insanity, & Wyoming, July 17 – August 26, 1984
Anne travels west with her camera to visit family. (LC)
SOF

Reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End, October 21 – November 2, 1986
The would-be penultimate Diary reel. Anne ruminates about the upcoming end of the Diary – and mourns it, of course. Familiar themes of Dr Who, drinking, comedy, and a nice trick-or-treat Halloween sequence. (LC)
“There is a tendency to film your life like it is scenes.” (ACR)
Sound on film.

Reel 80: Emily Died, May 14 – September 26, 1994
Anne’s niece Emily dies. Anne goes into a deep depression. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 81: Mourning Emily, September 27, 1994 – January 29, 1995
Anne mourns the death of her young niece, Emily. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 83: [Untitled, final finished reel] December 24, 1995 – March 19, 1997
It’s been 16 years, and finally the Diary ends, an unintended ending that visits familiar territory.
SOF

(ACR) = text by Anne Charlotte Robertson

(LC) = text by Liz Coffey

 

A woman for all seasons: processing the Mildred Freed Alberg Papers

This is a guest post from our spring 2015 intern, Gabby Womack!

When I began my internship with the Harvard Film Archive, I knew that I would be working with the papers of a female television and film producer from the 1960s. In fact, Mildred Freed Alberg was one of the reasons I was drawn to the internship. I was curious about what her life was like, what kinds of shows and films she produced, and whether or not she was successful, because I had never heard of her before.

Star Intern, Gabby Womack holding a photograph from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection.

Star Intern, Gabby Womack, holding a photograph from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection.

Mildred Freed Alberg was a female film and television producer from the late 1950s into the 1980s. She began her work in radio and worked her way up to producing TV shows, telemovies, films/documentaries, and a play. She was best known for her work in shows such as Hallmark Hall of Fame (1955-60) and Our American Heritage (1959-62), as well as her documentary The Royal Archives of Elba (1980). Alberg also brought Shakespeare to television, despite much skepticism. Basically, she was awesome and ambitious.

I was excited to dig into her papers once I had an overall idea of her accomplishments. Of course, I was in for some very cool surprises once I began. After weeks of processing, I found a short letter discussing the cast schedules of the film Hot Millions (1968) starring Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith. Although the find was small, it made me excited. So many Millennials have only seen Maggie Smith in her later years and have come to picture her as Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter films, or Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey. I loved reading Alberg’s letter asking about whether the young starlet was going to become a part of the cast and begin rehearsals. I later found compelling letters discussing the possibilities of casting Muhammad Ali or Johnny Cash as a lead in a movie that never ended up being filmed (Rogue). There were many letters to and from Johnny Cash about the role, attempts to meet, and Alberg’s thoughts on those meetings. The part that I found pretty funny was the way she referred to him as “a young musician who is on the rise and well liked by the younger crowd.”

Promotional item from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection

Promotional item from the Mildred Freed Alberg collection

Mildred Freed Alberg also worked with notable author Elie Wiesel on scripts for the 25th Anniversary of the State of Israel in 1972. It seemed to me that Alberg wanted her work to be as authentic as it could be, and conducted thorough research into Wiesel’s work as well as biblical stories and Israel as a whole. In fact, everything she produced showed the same depth of research. In one episode of Our American Heritage, she received some negative feedback from someone who claimed that she had misrepresented some information on Eli Whitney and his invention of the cotton gin. Alberg did not take kindly to this criticism because they had implied that she had not done her research on everyone in the episode. She wrote back to this person and shared her letter with the heads of the production company she worked for. The letter tore apart the recipient and detailed exactly where she found her information, all the way down to the page number and paragraphs.
Processing the Mildred Freed Alberg collection has shown me how this tough, but likeable, woman worked her way up to the top within the entertainment industry and never let anyone or anything stop her. Before processing this collection, I had no idea women were able to find work within that field besides acting and being assistants. She was an inspiring woman and I believe that she is a great example of what the industry is missing to this day.

The Five Year Diary (1981-1997)

small_Five_Year_Diary_original_boxes

This week I’ve been watching some episodes of Anne Robertson’s Five Year Diary with a visiting researcher.  It’s been great getting back into this work.  There were quite a few exciting finds among reels I’d never seen, including one with a soundtrack recorded during a review at Mass Art.  Anne discusses her work with her professors, Saul Levine and a second, as yet unidentified, man.  This episode is somewhat early in the work (1983), but the discussion is relevant to the work as a whole.

Part of my goal with watching more reels of the Diary is to prioritize reels for digitization.  Presently, 8 reels of the work have been digitized and are available for screenings.  It is our goal to digitize the entire work; we are prioritizing and hope to have more reels available this fall.

The final reel of the Diary (Reel 83, 1997), which was only accidentally so, includes some images that remind me of earlier reels.  There is some focus on weight, a theme from the beginning, as well as the family gravestones, holidays, and, as always the moon.  I’m going to have to watch the entire work – is there an episode without the moon?  The moon and Anne are the constant characters in the film.  Anne travels; her companion the moon meets her there.  Anne goes through cycles of mental stability; the moon waxes and wanes.

The Diary is most obviously a thorough evaluation of the self, but despite Anne’s obsessions about her own body and life, she is also a solid viewer of the natural world.  The moon is the face of it, but we see the seasons closely monitored, plant life, the weather.  Paradoxically, her romantic obsessions are found on television, and on programs that are anything but celebrations of nature.

Here in Cambridge, the summer is drawing to a close.  It’s made most obvious by the return of the students, clearly demonstrated by traffic and restaurant crowds, but Anne’s films remind me to look to the trees that are beginning to brown, the flowers that are going to seed, the vegetables that will require harvest before the frost.

~Liz Coffey

FYD 2 reading definitions of fat and thin

Anne Charlotte Robertson Papers

 

In addition to her films, Anne Robertson left us a wealth of accompanying papers, including:

  • scripts
  • diaries
  • film recipts
  • festival entry papers
  • clippings
  • items made for film screenings
  • correspondence

A few winners from today’s work are below.  I especially like William Davis’ notes about the Five Year Diary chapter A BREAKDOWN and AFTER THE MENTAL HOSPITAL

 

flier for Mass Art program small IAC competition Suicide smallerA Breakdown judge report smaller

available Anne Robertson titles

 

Hello.  I’ll bet you’ve been wondering which Anne Charlotte Robertson films are available for loan.  Here is the list!

shorts:
Subways (1976) – 13 min.
Going to Work (1981) – 7 min.
Locomotion (1981) – 7 min.
Magazine Mouth (1983) – 7 min.
Depression Focus Please (1984) – 4 min.
Talking to Myself (1985) – 3 min.
Kafka Kamera (1985) – 3 min.
Apologies (1986) – 17 min.
My Cat, My Garden, 9/11 (2001) – 6 min.

FIVE YEAR DIARY (approx. 27 min per reel):
Reel 1 The Beginning – Thanksgiving, Nov. 3 – Dec. 13, 1981
Reel 2 Definitions of Fat and Thin, Dec. 13 – 22, 1981
Reel 9 April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, 1982
Reel 22 A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 1982 – 27 min.
Reel 23 A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, Sept. 1 – Dec. 13, 1982 – 26 min.
Reel 31 Niagara Falls, Aug. 19 – 28, 1983 – 25 min.
Reel 80 Emily Died, 1994 – 27 min.
Reel 81 Mourning Emily, 1995 – 25 min.

Please contact our Loan Officer for more information.  Titles are available digitally or on tape.

Maybe we will make a box set available at some point.  If this is something you would be interested in purchasing, please let us know in the comments so we may gauge interest.

Work, meanwhile, on the collection soldiers on.  We have many more DIARY episodes to digitize and show.  Work on the collection continues.  Stay tuned…

Here is our working list of the FIVE YEAR DIARY reels, titles by ACR:
Five Year Diary – reel 1: The beginning – Thanksgiving
Five Year Diary – reel 2: Definitions of fat and thin
Five Year Diary – reel 3: Christmas and New Year ‘82
Five Year Diary – reel 4: My Father Died
Five Year Diary – reel 5: Mourning
Five Year Diary – reel 6: The Lights of the Bardo
Five Year Diary – reel 7: Home Alone
Five Year Diary – reel 8: Leaving My Father’s Office
Five Year Diary – reel 9: April fool / Happy Birthday 33
Five Year Diary – reel 10: Easter
Five Year Diary – reel 11: Data Entry
Five Year Diary – reel 12: Reunion
Five Year Diary – reel 13: Visiting North Carolina
Five Year Diary – reel 14: North Carolina & More Data Entry
Five Year Diary – reel 15: Even More Data Entry
Five Year Diary – reel 16: Soon to be Unemployed
Five Year Diary – reel 17: End of the Job
Five Year Diary – reel 18: Raspberry Season
Five Year Diary – reel 19: Heat of Summer
Five Year Diary – reel 20: Blackberry Season
Five Year Diary – reel 21: Still Berrypicking
Five Year Diary – reel 22: A short affair (and) going crazy
Five Year Diary – reel 23: A breakdown (and) after the mental hospital
Five Year Diary – reel 24: Christmas & New Year ‘83
Five Year Diary – reel 25: Getting Fat Again
Five Year Diary – reel 26: First Semester Grad School
Five Year Diary – reel 27: Visiting North Carolina Again
Five Year Diary – reel 28: Leaving the Apartment and Moving Home
Five Year Diary – reel 29: New York City & the Berry Season
Five Year Diary – reel 30: Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 31 – Niagara Falls
Five Year Diary – reel 32: Losing Weight
Five Year Diary – reel 33: A Crush on Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 34
Five Year Diary – reel 35: Christmas & New Year ‘84
Five Year Diary – reel 36: Another Nervous Breakdown
Five Year Diary – reel 37: After the Mental Hospital Again
Five Year Diary – reel 38
Five Year Diary – reel 39: Yet Another Breakdown
Five Year Diary – reel 40: Visiting My Grandmother, My Insanity, & Wyoming
Five Year Diary – reel 41: California, Home & Wyoming
Five Year Diary – reel 42: Christmas, New Year ‘85 & Gaining Weight
Five Year Diary – reel 43: Breaking Again & Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 44: Last Semester of Grad School
Five Year Diary – reel 45: Christmas, New Year ‘86, Then Employed Again
Five Year Diary – reel 46
Five Year Diary – reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End
Five Year Diary – reel 48: The Fifth Anniversary
Five Year Diary – reel 49: Lunar Phases
Five Year Diary – reel 50: Christmas & New Year ‘87
Five Year Diary – reel 51
Five Year Diary – reel 52: Preparing for a Big Show
Five Year Diary – reel 53: CinnamonAmy Cat Died
Five Year Diary – reel 54: Still Mourning
Five Year Diary – reel 55: Breakdown Wasn’t Filmed
Five Year Diary – reel 56: Christmas, New Year ‘88, Robin Hood
Five Year Diary – reel 57: Employment & Birthday 39
Five Year Diary – reel 58: California Show
Five Year Diary – reel 59: Big Religious / Political Letter
Five Year Diary – reel 60: NYC Peace March
Five Year Diary – reel 61: More Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 62: In a Performance
Five Year Diary – reel 63: Family & Gardens
Five Year Diary – reel 64: Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 65: Big Show in New York
Five Year Diary – reel 66: Hanukah – Christmas & New Year ‘89
Five Year Diary – reel 67: So Much Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 68: Plenty of Doctor Who
Five Year Diary – reel 69: Guess Who & Breakdowns
Five Year Diary – reel 70: Christmas – New Year ‘90 Resolutions
Five Year Diary – reel 71 – On Probation
Five Year Diary – reel 72: Short Takes & Visiting Grandmother
Five Year Diary – reel 73: Off Probation & Tour of New York
Five Year Diary – reel 74
Five Year Diary – reel 75
Five Year Diary – reel 76 – Fall to Spring
Five Year Diary – reel 77
Five Year Diary – reel 78
Five Year Diary – reel 79
Five Year Diary – reel 80 – Emily Died “second edit”
Five Year Diary – reel 81 – Mourning Emily
Five Year Diary – reel 82
Five Year Diary – reel 83
IMG_0028

 

Collection update: Caroline Leaf

The Caroline Leaf Collection experienced many moments of closure last week. To begin with, it is now processed, encoded, and the finding aid is up online. I really enjoyed working on this collection and becoming so familiar with Caroline Leaf, the innovative Canadian-American animator and filmmaker, and her work. Her animated and live-action films demonstrate a consistent and delicate balance of whimsical artistry underlined with dark themes. And throughout all of her art, there is willingness – nay, resolve – to invent new methods and execute them beautifully, no matter the time commitment. These qualities are well represented in her collection as well, which is full of drawings and test samples that reveal her extensive processes.

Some snapshots of Caroline Leaf during the making of Interview.

 

Serendipitously, Caroline Leaf herself traveled from England to visit the Harvard Film Archive last week in order to approve a new answer print of Sand or Peter and the Wolf. There had been a protracted back-and-forth creating the new print because the coloring wasn’t quite right for a while. Her visit just happened to coincide with the finishing of her finding aid, and I had the exciting opportunity to meet (and lunch with!) her. She even gave some feedback on the finding aid, which is a rare opportunity for both a processing archivist and the person for whom the collection is about.

If you haven’t had the chance to become more familiar with Caroline Leaf’s work, check out the finding aid or watch some of her shorts on the National Film Board of Canada web site.

-Tricia Patterson

Two Sisters: The Long Evolution of a Short Film

This is a guest post from our fall intern, Tricia Patterson!

The past few weeks, I have been processing The Caroline Leaf Collection. Leaf is an award-winning Canadian animator who also spent some time teaching animation at Harvard University between 1996 and 1998. She is most known for innovative animation techniques, such as using sand to illustrate characters and movement or scratching images directly onto film.

In 1991, she produced her short film Two Sisters (or Entre Deux Soeurs), for which she won 12 awards, including First Prize in the 5-15 minute category at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Festival. As I started sorting through the collection, I found it actually contains many of her original development materials for Two Sisters (as well as other works), including storyboards, test film strips, and other stuff. But I came across one illustration and what looked like an accompanying short story along with a note that I found quite confusing.


Specifically, the line “adapted from The Master and Margarita” was baffling because it just so happened to be one of my favorite novels. But I had watched Two Sisters, and frankly had detected zero similarities between her short, the book, the illustration, and the short story. Further, none of the other pre-production materials suggested a connection either. EXCEPT: nestled in the box there also happened to be a copy of the book itself. Yet, I felt it had to be some sort of mistake – some accidental tenuous connection made during the inventory. I set it aside, determined to investigate at a later point.

And then I found it: while going through her collection of VHS tapes, I found a talk she gave about her work for ASIFA, including an in-depth narrative of how Two Sisters developed!

It turns out, Caroline Leaf also fell in love with the book, particularly the idea of a devil character that enters a story and changes all of the characters’ lives in some way. In 1979, she attempted to write a radio play version of it, but she ran into the problem of wanting to keep every detail in the story and not really having enough room. So she took a different approach and wrote a one-page story about a family going for a drive and stopping to pick up a stranger that ends up staying with the family for six months and altering each of their lives in a different way. Enter: the illustration and short story I found.